Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Email Marketing in a Web 2.0 World

As spam filters have improved, the amount of junk email most of us actually have to look at has dropped. Still, nearly 90% of email messages sent worldwide are spam. Many represent scams, but many are real marketing messages, though they come from businesses all across the spectrum of legitimacy. Like spam, they persist because they cost so little that even a tiny response rate makes the whole campaign worthwhile.

Most of us aren't spammers, though. If you're reading this, you probably want to market your products, services, or expertise sensibly and in a fairly targeted way. You want to use email to get the word out -- without spamming. But it takes a lot of time and effort (i.e. money) to prepare an email campaign. You must carefully compose and target your message. The email has to look good. It must include an opt-out link, a link to your relevant web pages, appealing graphics, and text that's been optimized for the short form of an email (and, of course, carefully proofread).

But now that people are getting more and more of their information through social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), are they still reading their emails? Here at Oren Hope World Headquarters we've observed some "email fatigue" going around. With increasing dependence on social networking for informal communication, and with other distractions multiplying, some of us find ourselves trashing most emails without looking at them, even when they're newsletters we signed up for or campaigns we opted into.

Some of our clients report website hits jumping significantly following an email newsletter. For these companies, email messaging is working. We've noticed, though, that they tend to be companies with fairly devoted followings. Brand loyalty seems to be in short supply these days, so if you don't already have a fairly loyal -- or at least a large -- base, you might be wasting your time with email marketing. Is your email list heavy with previous customers and/or top prospects? If not, an email campaign might not be the best use of your resources at this point.

But what do you think? Is email still a viable marketing tool for smaller companies that aren't yet well-established? Use the Comments section to let us know your perspective.

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